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Thattekad or Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, a flourishing avian paradise and Kerala’s first bird Sanctuary, is located in the south-west region of India. Located in Kerala’s Ernakulam district, which is famous for its waterfront promenades, the Sanctuary was set up back in 1983 and stretches for roughly 25 square kilometers. Set between the two tributaries of Periyar River, Thattekad has garnered fame and admiration for being a hotspot for indigenous bird species. The avian diversity alone is a magnetic pull for many tourists and birders.
The vast expanse of 25 square kilometers includes varying landscapes and a terrain that seems to ripple like waves, undulating in appearance. Situated at a peak altitude of 488 meters, you’ll find several wetlands and marshy areas (locally known as Vayals) in the areas surrounding the Periyar and Idamalayar rivers. Bhoothathankettu – a picturesque irrigation dam and a local tourist spot, has inundated a part of the Sanctuary.
On observing the foliage and the dense forests, you’ll realize that Thattekad has managed to evolve into a combination of tropical evergreen, tropical semi-evergreen, moist deciduous and montane forests. The different biogeographic zones and ecosystems of the South Western Ghats, along with the combination of alpine climate and rainy weather, have resulted in such a mixture.
While most of the natural foliage has been converted into other features of the ecosystem or cleared out completely, the rest of the once-contiguous forests now remain severely fragmented.
Thattekad has carried on the legacy of being “the richest bird habitat in Peninsular India, comparable only to Eastern Himalayas’ ‘, as per the words and praises of Dr. Salim Ali. The words became famous and with it, the Sanctuary. Once it was officially declared as a Sanctuary in 1983, word spread far and wide about the abundant bird diversity and natural riches harbored by Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, irrespective of its average size and expanse. The nocturnal Ceylon Frogmouth and the Black Baza are integral inhabitants of Thattekad Bird Sanctuary
Location: Ernakulam District, Kerala, India
Nearest Airport: Cochin airport
How to reach: 1.5 hours from Cochin airport
Famous for: Western ghat birds, including many rarities
Best time to visit: November to March
WHAT TO SEE
Birds: Malabar Trogon, Black Baza, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Oriental Bay Owl, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Parakeet, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Malabar Whistling Thrush and Black-throated Munia, Grey-headed Bulbul, Wayanad Laughingthrush, Rufous Babbler, Malabar Lark, Crimson-backed Sunbird. Other good birds include Red Spurfowl, White-bellied Woodpecker, Brown-backed Needletail
Thattekad witnesses enviably rich and varied biodiversity, along with an abundance of bird species. Out of the 250 species of birds that inhabit this famed sanctuary, 14 indigenous species form an integral part. All in all, the region has 20 bird species in entirety, and more than half of them are present in Thattekad. Well known as an endemic hotspot, many birds are found only here or in the Western Ghats, while many others are prime attractions, such as the Ceylon Frogmouth and Black Baza.
Days at the Thattekad Wildlife Sanctuary are spent observing the Indian Scimitar Babbler and its distinctive calls, the Pompadour Green Pigeon, and the Flame-Throated Bulbul named so after its fiery orange-red throat. Birds like Jerdon’s Nightjar and Collared Scops Owl, a resident breeder, are rare species and a sensation in the Thattekad Wildlife Sanctuary. The most sensational, however, is the Ceylon Frogmouth, also known as the Sri Lanka frogmouth. Known for its quirky looks, wide mouth, and proportionately small eyes, stealthy and equipped with the perfect vision, the Ceylon Frogmouthreceives a lot of attention. There is no better place to observe this bird in its natural habitat, than Thattekad Wildlife Sanctuary.
You’ll find so many flamboyant and resplendent birds such as the indigo-blue Nilgiri, the White-Backed Blue Flycatcher that boasts of a combination of white, black, blue and orange on its feather-coat, and the Crimson-Backed sunbird with a purple-throat glistens like velvet in the sunlight. People love capturing these colorful birds through the lenses of their cameras and often come here to look out for the exquisite Black Baza.
All kinds of birds inhabit the Sanctuary. Whether it be birds that sing melodious tunes or birds like White-Bellied Treepie and Dark-Fronted Babbler that create a loud and unmissable cacophony, it’s clear that there will never be a dull moment.
A place like Thattekad Wildlife Sanctuary is so rich in avian life, that it is impossible to explore efficiently without an experienced guide to help you. A guide will be able to save your time and effort by guiding you to the best viewing spots and telling you the exact locations from where you can observe the rarest of birds in the Sanctuary, such as the Ceylon Frogmouth, Indian Pitta, and Malabar Trogon. It needs a good local birding guide to help you work through your birding checklist. Thattekad also has a few well developed birding hides, which are just perfectly done for bird photographers. You can easily get shots of 40-60 western ghat birds in these hides.